For the second straight offseason, the focus for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be on Tom Brady’s future. The quarterback is set to hit free agency in March, and the Bucs are unable to use the franchise tag on the veteran quarterback.
Tampa Bay’s struggles this season is prompting widespread speculation that Brady will either retire or play elsewhere in 2023. Former NFL general manager Michael Lombardi sees Brady playing for another team next season.
“There was a report the other day that Brady will not be back with Tampa Bay, I don’t know who reported it, but I would say without a doubt, that’s probably accurate,” Lombardi told VSIN during a December 15, 2022 interview. “I would say that without a doubt, because his contract expires and I think he’s seen life outside of the Patriot Way. And like all of us that have, it’s uncomfortable and it’s hard to survive.”
Brady Will Likely Retire or Play Elsewhere in 2023, Says Insider
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer believes it is on the Buccaneers to prove during the final weeks of the season that the team has enough talent to contend in 2023. Otherwise, the early signs point to Brady either retiring or playing elsewhere next season. Either option would leave the Bucs looking for a new starting quarterback in 2023 all while the team enters salary cap hell.
“Here’s the reality—absent Brady, it probably won’t be worth continuing to kick the can down the road cap-wise with the current core,” Breer wrote on December 12. “So we’re entering a critical period for that franchise. Does Brady want to keep playing? If he does, will it be in Tampa? Right now, it looks like the likelihood would be he’ll either retire or play elsewhere next year. And the only way to change that, as I see it, is for the Bucs to start playing a lot better around him to create some sort of incentive for him to sign back there.
“They have four games to do it.”
Who Would the Bucs Replace Brady With in 2023?
If Brady is not in Tampa after this season, it would likely put the Bucs on a fast track to rebuild. Tampa Bay faces a $35 million dead cap hit if Brady signs with another team. The Buccaneers are projected to be more than $40 million over the cap next season, per Spotrac.
“If Brady retires, Bucs can process it in such a way where much of the $35 million in dead money counts toward 2024 and less in 2023,” Fox Sports’ Greg Auman tweeted on December 11. “If he signs elsewhere, all $35 million counts against the 2023 cap.”
The Buccaneers have no clear succession plan if the team is forced to find a new starting quarterback next season. Kyle Trask was selected in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft but has yet to take a regular-season snap.
Tampa Bay’s salary cap situation makes it unlikely that the team will go star hunting again this offseason if Brady departs. The Athletic’s Bo Wolf pointed to Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett as a potential replacement option for the Bucs.
“If Brady does in fact leave, the Bucs will be left in rough shape given their cap situation and an aging roster,” Wulf wrote on December 13. “Maybe they turn things over fully to 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask, but you’d think they’d want someone to compete for the opportunity of throwing balls to Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. They could do worse than Brissett, who exceeded expectations for the Browns this season. On the year, he ranks 12th of 33 qualifying quarterbacks in EPA per dropback, according to TruMedia, ahead of the likes of Herbert, Justin Fields, Kirk Cousins and Brady himself.”
Brady could surprise and re-sign with the Buccaneers, believing he has unfinished business in Tampa. For now, the clock appears to be ticking not only on the Bucs season, but also on the TB12 era in Tampa Bay.